Conference Review: Global Musicology—Global Music History

The Global Musicology—Global Music History Conference (GMGM 2022) was held over three and a half days, 25–28 January 2022. It utilized the online platform Zoom to reach as many time zones as possible and to increase accessibility for as many scholars as possible. No registration fee was required for this digital conference. In addition, acknowledging the challenges some scholars may face in producing their works, a small number of bursaries were provided by the Royal Musical Association to presenting students and established scholars from low- and middle-income countries. The event therefore removes some of the barriers of conference attendance for scholars by embracing a digital option and by offering support that recognizes the geopolitical realities to explore and learn.

This conference sought to create a space in which to share novel research and foster critical discourse on the myriad of issues and approaches related to ‘global musicology’ and ‘global music history’. Scholars from a range of disciplines and backgrounds gathered to address the problematic boundaries and nuanced interplay between the two fields of study. Given the institutional backgrounds of the organizers (the Chinese University of Hong Kong/Durham University and the University of Buenos Aires IAE-FFyL), it is no surprise that in the choices for presenters, conveners, and topics, an emphasis was put on the study of music outside of the Euro-American West, which currently dominates the academic space.

The digital conference drew around 350 registered attendees, not including the speakers and chairs. During the live presentations, each session averaged approximately 15–20 people. The keynote, ‘Global musicology has no key note’, presented by Daniel K. L. Chua, saw the largest live turnout at around 70 participants, and the standalone YouTube video of the talk (separate from the Zoom recording of the session) eventually received 188 views during the two-week period that recordings of the conference were made available. Indeed, recordings of the conference were provided to all attendees and were helpful, accommodating the schedules of those who had issues attending the live lectures. Occasionally, supplementary materials are also provided alongside these recordings, such as the ‘Rain Before Sunshine’ YouTube video discussed by Hedy Law in her paper, ‘Singing during a Pandemic: Teaching Global Cantonese Music in Canada in the Age of Disembodied Globalization’. The discussion was lively within the sessions, with comments and observations frequently extending into the Zoom chat function.

The conference presentations and roundtables presented at the GMGM2022 conference displayed scholars interested in ‘global’ music history discussing existing work, the progress and direction of research, and how we scholars reach the ‘requirements’ to enter into the study of music. The first day of the conference included a discourse on the language scholars utilize to discuss research. This included the roundtable chaired by Suddhaseel Sen, ‘“Global”, “music”, “history”: a cocktail of problematic labels’. A common thread was the need to draw connections between global scholarship and academia through many presentations–finding common ideas, concepts, and shared discourse.

The 2022 Global Musicology–Global Music History Conference’s main topics were divided into three areas of study: ‘Labels’, ‘Case Study’, ‘Practice’. Within these topics were subtopics, including themes of Pedagogy, Crossing Time and Space, Movement and Interconnection, and Historiography. Numerous papers presented novel approaches and concepts to labeling and practicing within the quickly expanding field.

Examples of presentations that fell under the umbrella of ‘Case Studies’ were plentiful and distributed through multiple days of the GMGM 2022 conference. Presentations of note included Lorane Prévost’s ‘Identity representations and classical hegemony: the consequences of the 1979 Iranian Revolution on Kurdish folk music’ and Inez Martins’s ‘From local to global musical practices: Ceará Military Police Force Music Band (Brazil) in the 19th century’. Presentations like these illustrate approaches that address the nuances that colored previous research and explain the methodologies and conflicts within future research–a recurring theme of the conference’s discussions.

Kathryn Mann is an independent musicology scholar, working primarily in cultural spaces, interdisciplinary arts, and gender studies concerning music history.

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